Observers of modern homelessness often cite some of the following potential causes of
* The movement in the 1950s in state mental health systems to shift towards community-based
treatment as opposed to long-term commitment in institutions. Many patients ultimately lost their
rooms, didn't get proper community health support, and ended up in the streets.
* Redevelopment and gentrification activities instituted by cities across the country through
which low-income neighborhoods are declared blighted and demolished to make way for
projects that generate higher property taxes and other revenue, creating a shortage of housing
affordable to low-income working families, the elderly poor, and the disabled.
* The failure of urban housing projects to provide safe, secure, and affordable housing to the
* The economic crises and "stagflation" of the 1980s, which caused high unemployment.
Unlike European countries, US unemployment insurance does not allow unemployed insurance
recipients to obtain job training/education while receiving benefits except under very limited
* The failure of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide effective mental health
care and meaningful job training for many homeless veterans, particularly those of the Vietnam
War. Many VA critics think homeless veterans are cycled through ineffective VA 12-step
programs, restricting housing programs, and low skilled job training programs that actually keeps
them cycling from program to program and back to living on the streets.
* Foster home children are not given job training in school or at home. Without a means to
make money, nearly half of foster children in the United States become homeless when they are
released from foster care at age 18.
* Natural disasters that destroy homes: hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, etc. Places of
employment are often destroyed too, causing unemployment and transience.
* People who have served time in prison, have abused drugs and alcohol, or have a history of
mental illness find it difficult to impossible to find employment for years at a time because of the
use of computer background checks by potential employers.
According to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the demand for emergency shelter in 270 U.S.
cities increased 13% in 2001 and 25% in 2005. 22 percent of those requesting emergency shelter
were turned away. With budgets squeezed dry, cities across the U.S. adopted a closed-door
attitude toward the displaced. For example:
* The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey banned panhandling in PATH subway
stations and bus terminals;
* In Atlanta, Georgia, Mayor Maynard Jackson proposed a policy of licensing panhandlers, it
was not adopted.
* The University of California, Berkeley ordered repeated police sweeps of People's Park and